LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
September 18 2006
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a weekly e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in healthy life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.
- Nothing to Lose But Your Mortality
- The Canard of Overpopulation
- New Thoughts on Calorie Restriction
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MORTALITY
Grasp the chance to extend healthy life by the horns - for you have nothing to lose but your mortality! As we all know, life starts to become truly interesting and rewarding right about the time those first reminders of aging and degeneration start to show. That sword of Damocles above your aging body may seem settled in to stay, but this part of the human condition is no longer set in stone:
"It is now the case that the right scientific programs backed by the right levels of funding could greatly extend the healthy human life span rapidly enough for us to benefit. We know enough to get started - this is not a time for modest goals and conservatism. This is a time to unleash the full potential of the biotechnology revolution on the root cause of more death and misery than anything else in this world: age-related degeneration.
"Folk like you and I don't have to stand on the sidelines and hope for more results, or for more scientists to get to work. Organizations like the Methuselah Foundation offer powerful ways for us to band together and fund or encourage effective research into defeating aging."
The newly announced donor-funded MitoSENS research initiative is one good example of ordinary folk working together to make a difference in the direction and pace of longevity science:
If you are saving for retirement, you have already demonstrated the discipline and vision needed to shape a better future for yourself. You can do the same for your future health by investing a modest amount of money in encouraging and funding longevity research. The consequences of failing to save for retirement are just as unpleasant as the consequences of failing to kick-start serious longevity research. The only question should be how to go about achieving these goals:
THE CANARD OF OVERPOPULATION
Overpopulation is not, and never will be an issue, regardless of how greatly, widely and soon success comes in extending the healthy human life span.
"Common Malthusianism - the idea that a given resource (such as living space or food) will run out in the future based upon extrapolation of present trends - stems from fundamental misunderstandings about economics, human action and change. We create change in response to our environment; our self-interest leads us to constantly strive at the creation new resources where old resources are becoming scarce and expensive. This is the path to profit for the individual - and progress for all. One needs a certain amount of willful blindness to avoid seeing the process in action now and in recent history."
Let there be no mistake: a great deal of poverty and suffering exists in the world today, but there is no overpopulation, and nor will there be. We must look closer at ourselves to see the willful agents of present and future misery in those parts of the world where resources lie unused and people starve: corruption, economic ignorance, shortsighted greed and the simple inhumanity of man unto man.
NEW THOUGHTS ON CALORIE RESTRICTION
You shouldn't miss the calorie restriction research that came to my attention in the past week. I think you'll find these papers and posts an interesting sampler of the science outside the media focus on sirtuin research groups like Sirtris Pharmaceuticals:
The Metabolic Stability Hypothesis
Macroautophagy and Aging
Calorie Restriction, Glycolysis and Aging
It is most rewarding for practitioners of calorie restriction to see scientists turning up preliminary evidence of positive effects in each new area of aging metabolism examined in detail. I think you owe it to yourself to look into calorie restriction and the evidence for its health benefits in humans:
The highlights and headlines from the past week follow below.
Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your friends will find it useful too. Forward it on, or post a copy to your favorite online communities. Encourage the people you know to pitch in and make a difference to the future of health and longevity!
Founder, Longevity Meme
LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES
To view commentary on the latest news headlines complete with links and references, please visit the daily news section of the Longevity Meme: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/
Macroautophagy and Aging (September 17 2006)
From PubMed, a look at the role of autophagy in aging: "Macroautophagy is a process that sequesters and degrades organelles and macromolecular constituents of cytoplasm for cellular restructuring and repair, and as a source of nutrients for metabolic use in early starvation. Extensive evidence has been reported that macroautophagy process declines with increasing age. This impairment, probably due to ad libitum feeding, may cause accumulation of altered structures leading to the age-related decline in cell functions. It has been suggested that caloric restriction (CR) and disruption of insulin-like signals contrast the process of aging by prolonged stimulation of macroautophagy. According to this hypothesis, it is shown that life-long weekly administration of an anti-lipolytic drug decreases glucose and insulin levels, stimulates autophagy and intensifies anti-aging effects of submaximal CR." To summarize: more rather than less autophagy is most likely good for your health; calorie restriction - demonstrated to be good for your health - inspires more autophagy; the future use of drugs to same end is plausible.
The Metabolic Stability Hypothesis (September 17 2006)
A new hypothesis on aging via the Juvenon Health Journal: "In general, species with higher metabolic rates have the shortest life spans. Demetrius's hypothesis holds that it is not the stresses of life, such as oxidative stress produced by free radicals, or the relative metabolic rates, that are important in determining life span. He believes the more important issue is metabolic stability, which is defined as the capacity of the networks of cellular metabolic pathways to continue to run smoothly, even during times of stress. ... One established method to increase life span in the mouse is caloric restriction (CR). Of interest, and in support of this theory, is experimental evidence showing that caloric restriction does in fact tend to stabilize metabolic pathways." This leads to the conjecture that CR will not do much for human maximum longevity, even though it is demonstrably effective at lowering risk for age-related conditions, as a healthy human already has a much more stable metabolism than mice.
Xenotransplantation Versus Diabetes (September 16 2006)
Medical News Today notes further progress towards the use of xenotransplantation to cure type 2 diabetes: "Unlike embryonic stem cells, which can become virtually any cell type, primordia are locked into becoming cells of a particular organ. Their approach for diabetes treatment uses pig pancreatic primordia. In previous research, they found that obtaining the primordia early in the pigs' development rendered them 'invisible' to the rats' immune system, eliminating the need for antirejection drugs. ... The transplanted primordia not only appropriately regulated blood sugar in the type 2 diabetic rats, they also reduced insulin resistance. The rats are cured by pig insulin, which comes from the transplants and can be measured in their circulation. The rats' own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are atrophied." Remember that type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease: the majority of sufferers could have avoided it though better choices.
The Cost of Not Caring (September 16 2006)
A look at the personal cost of not caring about your health from Medical News Today: "As many chronic diseases are closely linked to lifestyles, an estimated 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer, could be avoided if common lifestyle risk factors were eliminated. ... Seven leading risk factors - high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol, high cholesterol, overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake and physical inactivity - account for almost 60% of all ill health in [Europe]." Ignore the politics and the implicit assumption that change must be forced on people; take away the point that not taking care of your health has a large future cost: suffering, money and an early death. We all know that medical science is advancing, but why gamble your life and wallet on being rescued from the consequences of your own inaction? You can do better than that, and greatly increase your chances of living to see healthy life extension medicine that will extend your healthy life still further.
Everyone Can Help In Some Way (September 15 2006)
The future of healthy life extension research and the scope of our potential longevity is not walled off and out of reach to folk like you and I. It is a matter very much in our hands, open for all of us to influence and change. We can all help to bring about a future of working rejuvenation medicine - technology that really can repair the fundamental damage that causes aging, not just paper over the cracks. Thoughts from Anne C.: "Let's be realistic: if healthy life extension is to be achieved in time for many of us currently alive to take advantage of it, people need to start taking action now, with available resources, not imaginary ones. That is, we can't afford to wait for certain tools to develop before making a start. Everyone can do something." The future is exactly what we make of it, working together - no more and no less. If we want longer, healthier lives, than we must set forth to make that medical technology a reality.
CR and Alzheimer's Again (September 15 2006)
Via EurekAlert!, more on calorie restriction (CR) and Alzheimer's disease (AD): "The present study strengthens the possibility that CR may exert beneficial effects on delaying the onset of AD-amyloid brain neuropathology in humans, similar to that observed in squirrel monkey and rodent models of AD ... The researchers found that ~30% calorie restriction resulted in reduced AD type amyloid neuropathology in the temporal cortex relative to control fed monkeys. The decreased AD type neuropathology correlated with increased longevity of related protein SIRT1, located in the same brain region that influences a variety of functions including aging related diseases." It seems that calorie restriction improves your prospects in all matters of aging examined to date.
Alzheimer's and Diabetes (September 14 2006)
Links between Alzheimer's and diabetes continue to solidify. This JS Online piece takes a high level look at the present scientific consensus: "Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. People with high blood sugar often develop abnormal insulin levels and a condition known as insulin resistance. And people with insulin resistance actually may have lower levels of needed insulin in the brain even though they have higher levels in other parts of the body. All that means that brain cells may not be getting enough glucose, inflammation increases, beta-amyloid builds up and the cells die. Still another idea is that high levels of insulin compete with enzymes that break down beta-amyloid, resulting in the troubling protein building up in the brain. ... Even if diabetes simply represents a form of brain artery disease, it likely worsens or accelerates Alzheimer's caused by some other mechanisms."
More on Enhancing Healing (September 14 2006)
If you understand the biomolecular processes of healing, then you can step in to improve them. Many research teams around the world are doing just this. One such effect is examined here by Science: "Even on a cellular level, wound healing takes time. The body must target a large number of molecules called growth factors to just the right area to help repair the damage. ... The new tools are molecules called peptide amphiphiles. Once injected into the body, the amphiphiles self-assemble into long, thin nanofibers, which hang out in the wound area. ... in those given the amphiphiles, nanofibers assembled at the injury site and stayed put, drawing the body's own growth factors to the injury site. A month later, the team found that the hearts of the animals that received the amphiphiles pumped blood nearly as well as those of healthy animals. In contrast, the hearts of the control animals contracted about 50% less than normal. The same nanofibers also dramatically hastened wound healing in rabbits."
Artificial Kidney Technology (September 13 2006)
The MIT Technology Review looks at the technology base that will - in years ahead - lead to entirely artificial organs to replace failing or age-damaged kidneys: "Next-generation membranes, now being engineered, will have more than 100,000 pores or slits per square millimeter and provide more than 10 times the flow. An implanted device carrying several hundred square centimeters of this next-generation membrane [should provide] about one-third of normal kidney function. ... it remains to be seen if the [researchers] can squeeze their filtration systems into a package small and robust enough for implantation. ... their goal to more precisely emulate the function of the kidney is right on - and a welcome alternative to the incremental improvements in more conventional technologies that have dominated dialysis developments for the past 20 years."
The Silver Book (September 13 2006)
Those of you who like to dive into the data should find much of interest at the Silver Book, a project of the Alliance for Aging Research. "When asked about their chances of having a chronic disease by age 65, just 4% of Americans select the correct range (81%-90%) from a set of possible answers read during the survey. ... Just 10% of the American public correctly estimates their chances of getting cardiovascular disease (61%-70%) by retirement age and most vastly underestimate their chances (39% are 20 points off or more). ... The Silver Book is an almanac of hundreds of facts, statistics, graphs, and information from close to 100 agencies, organizations and experts. It is a searchable database that is constantly updated and expanded in order to highlight the latest research and data on the burden of chronic disease and the value of investing in medical research." Would support for aggressive healthy longevity research increase if more people grasped the impact of aging on their health and livelihood?
Announcing MitoSENS Research (September 12 2006)
Last year the Methuselah Foundation commenced modest donor-funded biotechnology research applicable to the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence - making a start on learning how to repair age-related damage so as to extend the healthy human life span. That LysoSENS research has been moving on apace. Now, the Foundation has announced the second line of research - MitoSENS. "Mutations to the [mitochondrial (mtDNA)] inevitably accumulate leading to dysfunction of mitochondria, and contributing to aging of the organism. The goal of MitoSENS is to obviate mtDNA mutations by expressing the mtDNA genes from the nucleus. Fortunately, we would be completing a process that evolution has already started. The mitochondrial genome originally had thousands of genes, but evolution has reduced it to a mere 13 (protein encoding) genes in humans. By studying how nature transfered expression of other genes from the mitochondria to the nucleus, we can identify the necessary steps to transfer the remaining 13 genes."
The Conservative Case For Immortality (September 12 2006)
It has to be said, I'm not sure why there has to be a conservative (in the political sense) case for immortality - but given that there now is, TCS Daily is where you'd expect to find it. Politics is indeed life for some people. "When it comes to life extension, many conservatives - without otherwise abandoning their pro-life credentials - turn out to be 'pro-death' in the sense of opposing as at least unwise or imprudent any serious attempt to slow down, halt, or reverse the aging process. ... But they may want to temper such instinctive reactions because, perhaps surprisingly, there are genuinely conservative arguments for life extension. Central to any conservative social agenda - using Russell Kirk's principles as exemplary - are desires to inculcate order, temperance, and prudence. And all of these are well served by encouraging longer lives, not shorter ones." The most interesting thing to me is that the author feels no need to emphasise or explain at length that healthy life extension is plausible and possible - that is progress from the advocate's viewpoint.
What Next For Regenerative Medicine (September 11 2006)
An interesting paper in PLos Medicine looks at the best next steps for regenerative medicine. It's intended to focus on the "developing world" (or, more accurately, the "world sabotaged by corruption and willful economic ignorance") - but the recommendations come across as common sense for the field as a whole, no matter what region you might live in. A panel of experts put forward their view of "the ten most promising applications of regenerative medicine for improving health in developing countries ... Top-ranked application: Novel methods of insulin replacement and pancreatic islet cell regeneration for diabetes. ... Second-ranked application: Autologous cells for the regeneration of heart muscle after myocardial infarction and cardiomyopathies. ... Third-ranked application: Immune system enhancement by engineered immune cells and novel vaccination strategies for infectious disease."
Towards an Artificial Cornea (September 11 2006)
From EurekAlert!, news of more progress towards replacement parts for the eye: "Myung's project [was] to design, fabricate and characterize a bioengineered cornea based on the dual-network hydrogel. The result was a disc with a clear center and tiny pores populating the periphery. Myung calls the pores engineered into his artificial cornea the 'homes' he built for cells that need to infiltrate the artificial lens and integrate it with surrounding natural tissue. ... If you build it, they will come. The cells move in, and they bring furniture too - meaning the collagen they secrete. They even 'remodel.' ... Collagen binds to the edge of the synthetic disc and forms a junction between natural and synthetic tissues. Then a clear layer of epithelial cells grow over the disc. ... Animals have tolerated artificial corneas with no problems in trials as long as eight weeks. [The] material remains perfectly clear."